Uni bid to cause upset despite home venue crisis

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It is over 30 years since spectators were turned away from a Scottish basketball game because they could not fit them in.

Though with considerably smaller numbers it is possible the same thing might happen at the Crags Sports Centre tomorrow when Edinburgh University play St Mirren in their Scottish Cup semi-final at 5.20pm.

In the early 1980s when Alton Byrd came to play in Scotland for the first time for Crystal Palace against Murray International Metals, an estimated 300 were left on the ramp at Meadowbank Stadium with 2000 fans inside.

Tomorrow’s modest encounter, for which there will not even be an admission charge, has come about as Edinburgh University could not obtain their normal home court at the Pleasance Centre of Sport and Excellence due to exams taking place there.

So the nearby Crags, an important training centre for the Boroughmuir Blaze club, came to the rescue, though it has barely enough room for a row of seats down one side of the hall and may be deemed full with less than 100 spectators present.

But the atmosphere promises to be electric as the Uni team, comprised of mainly current students and a few graduates, attempt to reach the final for the first time since 1967.

EU have actually won the trophy more times than Saints with four victories to t Saints’ three, but it would be a major upset if EU were to beat their Paisley visitors.

Uni haven’t even been able to train this week as, apart from the hall crisis, most players have been engrossed in exams: “It’s disappointing not being able to benefit from home court advantage and given that Saints scored 107 points the last time they played at the Crags when they won their cup quarter-final there I think it would be remarkable if we got through,” said coach Danny Costello.

Edinburgh Kings will also be outside bet in their semi-final tomorrow against holders Falkirk Fury on their opponents’ home court at the Mariner Sports Centre (6.30pm).

But veteran Scottish internationalist Paddy Campbell, genuinely believes Kings can win. “I think we can beat them,” he said. “We only lost by ten in the league – but we need to learn to close out games when we are in the lead.”

“For myself I need to be a bit more aggressive,” says Campbell, who has played in all but one of Kings’ seven cup-winning sides and is hugely impressed by the young talent coming through from the club’s juniors.

With his father-in-law John Bunyan the opposing coach and two brothers-in-law Keith and Jonny in the opposing ranks it will again be a difficult night for one of Kings’ key players, veteran centre Simon Flockhart.

Kings coach Doug Reilly is also positive: “We’re the underdogs and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Holders Edinburgh Kool Kats go into their Scottish Women’s Cup semi-final away to Glasgow Rocks at St Maurice’s High, Cumbernauld on Sunday (11.20am) as slight favourites following their Scottish League win over their rivals at Portobello last Saturday.

If they win they will meet Edinburgh University in an all-Capital final.